incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our ancestors have told us.
Jeremiah proclaims that the Lord is wondering why we think that the public worship that we use to show off is in any way really worship. The enemy is coming and God is not going to stand in its way. "Preach to them," the Lord told Jeremiah. "Tell them that I will return to them if they will change their ways, if they will truly act justly with one another, if they do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, or shed innocent blood, or hurt themselves by going after other gods."
The Lord was convinced that they weren't listening and became angry. "Why won't they listen? Why do they continue to sin?"
As a Jew, Paul had a visible reminder of his inclusion in God's covenant people. But, that particular requirement was not necessary for other Christians who were not also Jews. "You have a spiritual circumcision, baptism" he told them.
"When you were baptized," he told them, "you were buried with him, and you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God."
"For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness in him," Paul said.
Christ is the way that we can see God living in human form and Christ is the way we can see how humans ought to be living.
And for those times that we have already failed to live that way Paul reminds them that God has forgiven them.
Paul is cautioning that Christians don't allow themselves to be distracted by what may look good but is actually peripheral to the essence of what they should be doing, thinking, caring about. Moreover, he says not to pay attention to critics who themselves can't distinguish between shadow and substance--the core of Christianity and the patina we may exhibit instead.
From time to time, faithful Christians can somehow drift to faithfulness in something they call Christianity to someone that they call Christ. They, we, need periodically--constantly, even--to examine our beliefs and behavior in light of the actual Christ. As Paul put it:
Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God.Psalm 78:1-31
The psalmist asks the people to listen: I will tell you things that I heard from my ancestors. I'll tell children about what the Lord can do and has done.
Not only history, not only the glorious deeds and wonders that the Lord did for them then. But also, how the Lord intended for them to respond. They are to remember the teaching and make sure that their children know about what God has done and what they are supposed to do.
What do we tell the children in our congregation about our own experiences with God? Do we notice when God notices us? How have we gotten through dangerous places? How did we know which way was the right way to go? Are our needs being satisfied?
The psalmist gives the reminder that even when the people were on their way toward the promised land, they were complaining. They wanted food. Because their life right then was not the way they had wanted it to be, they had begun to mistrust God.
They had left their homes because they trusted God's word coming through Moses. But, then, they had lost their trust.
But, they had not lost their God. Although their faithfulness weakened, God provided them with the food and water they needed to be able to continue their journey, abundant food and water.
It doesn't sound fair, and we can be grateful for that.
One who gives an honest answer gives a kiss on the lips.
Prayer for Today: O Lord, guide us into true worship. Turn our efforts toward acts of justice and kindness. Help us to remember the kindness that has been shown to us. Help us to tell others of your love and direction and forgiveness. Amen.